Making a curious, farcical escape

Campbell Patterson, Escape #1, 2016, digital video. Photo: Collection of the Dunedin Public Art...
Campbell Patterson, Escape #1, 2016, digital video. Photo: Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery
The camera is trained on the side of a typical suburban weatherboard house; hugged by a low box hedge, unswept leaves are scattered on the adjacent footpath.

Within this still and quiet scene, the window opens and a man tentatively climbs through it.

The artist, Campbell Patterson, carefully lowers himself to the ground from the window's ledge, gradually revealing his choice of attire as a ludicrously gigantic pair of grey sweatpants.

Once outside, Patterson opens a gate and disappears into the backyard. A few moments later, he reappears at the same window, once again awkwardly making his way through and down to the ground, all the while attempting to keep the elasticated waistband of the pants up to preserve his modesty.

He makes his escape ten times, and each time the pants have other ideas: tripping him up and threatening to expose his nakedness entirely.

As this absurd event recurs, we are left to wonder: "What is it Patterson escaping from?" There does not seem to be any urgency to his movements, and while his partial nudity might allude to some kind of private activity or interrupted tryst, there is no sense of a hasty exit in his repeated actions.

What we witness then is more of a rehearsal than a genuine getaway; a farcical enterprise in which the artist grapples with his surreal sweatpants, engaged in what appears as an almost ritualistic series of escapes from a suburban reality.

James Hope is the curatorial intern at Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

See it

Escape #1 is included in the exhibition "Space Suit", curated by Lucy Hammonds, showing at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery until November 18. 

Add a Comment